Annual Investiture of Grand Lodge
Speech of the Pro Grand Master, the Marquess of Northampton
28 April 2004
Brethren, it is good to see so many
of you here today for this annual
investiture, which must surely qualify
as the happiest Masonic event of the
year and I bid you a warm welcome.
On behalf of the Grand Master,
I congratulate all those whom I have
invested with their new ranks. These
have been given in part for what you
have already done for the Craft, but
more importantly in the hope that
you will continue, with your new status,
to do your utmost for the good of
Freemasonry for many years to come.
I am delighted to say that a few of the
recipients of their first Grand Rank today
have been in their eighties, as have many
of those getting promotion, including one
Brother in his nineties. All these Brethren
are still going strong and continue to have
much to offer.
It is customary at this meeting for the
Presiding Officer to talk about the state
of the Craft, which, because of declining
numbers, has not always been a very
As you may know, at the end of each
year, London and the Provinces provide
many statistics which are then collated by
the Grand Secretary’s department. This year
has proved an exciting one in many respects,
and while some Provinces are still suffering
a decline in numbers, the overall figures are
better than they have been for many years.
The most encouraging statistic is the
increase of 286 in the number of initiations
to 8,391, which is 3.5% up on last year. Apart
from a small increase of 18 in 2001, this is the
first annual increase in initiations since 1988.
Recruitment is important for our future
but so is retention, and it is also encouraging
that the figure for resignations and exclusions
is 487 lower than in 2002. Overallmembership
of the Craft has contracted by less than half a
per cent to 319,725, while the number of
individual Masons has risen by 0.7% to just
Interestingly, there are no clear
membership trends in terms of size, geography
or characteristics, but the smaller and more
rural Provinces tend to have a larger average
Lodge membership, and seem to be more
successful in recruiting and retaining members.
It is also clear that Provinces which have
an active policy of reducing the number of
their Lodges in line with a reduction in
members, are starting to report increases
in initiates and reductions in the level of
resignations and exclusions.
While I would be wary of saying that the
membership decline of recent years appears
to be bottoming out, nevertheless there are
genuine signs of growth in many Provinces,
which I hope we can build on this year.
There are many reasons why a Brother
resigns from his Lodge, and although most
of them we can do little about, some of
them we can, particularly when it comes
to making his Lodge night a more enjoyable
and meaningful experience.
I have talked a lot this past year about
how Freemasonry must adapt itself to fit the
pressured lives of its newer members, bearing
in mind that an initiate is likely to be in his
late forties when he becomes a Master Mason.
For rituals to be entertaining and relevant
they must be performed well, and in a manner
that holds the attention of the Candidate
and the audience. I particularly like going
to meetings where the work is shared among
different members of the Lodge, because
it adds variety and increases the sense of
brotherhood among those taking part.
None of our ceremonies should take
more than one and a half to two hours or
we have passed the attention span of most
people, and yet we all know Lodges where
meetings can last for considerably longer.
I am, therefore, delighted the Board has
proposed measures to lessen the time taken
to ballot for the Master and Treasurer, by
allowing it to be by a show of hands if there
is only one candidate and no-one objects.
However, other savings in time will have
to be contemplated by Lodges if they are to
retain the interest of their members. There
are many things we do which are not part
of the actual ritual. These ‘extras’ crept into
our ceremonies in the days when members
could happily take a whole day off work
for their Lodge meetings and time was not
Society has changed, and so must we if
busy professional men are going to enjoy
their masonry to the full. We must use the
time available for the rituals and, if necessary,
cut back on other parts of the meeting.
Whatever we do outside of the rituals we
should ask ourselves, firstly, whether it is
really necessary, and secondly, whether it is
enjoyable for our guests?
In some Provinces it has become the
norm to salute every level of rank present at
a meeting, which takes up much valuable
time. Why not salute only the most senior
Mason present and let him reply on behalf
of everyone else? There are many ways
of making our meetings shorter and more
enjoyable for everyone, and all I ask is
that Lodges are encouraged to debate
In the ceremony of dedicating a new
Temple, the Dedicating Officer says ‘we
trust that those who enter here for
ceremonial work may go away raised and
uplifted.’ Surely, Brethren, that should be
our goal and the criterion upon which we
judge the success or otherwise of what we
do at our meetings.